Justice Stephen Breyer says he plans to retire ‘eventually’

Justice Amy Coney Barrett was confirmed to the nation’s highest court in October of this year, just over a month after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Yet while Barrett is the Supreme Court’s newest member, it’s not clear how long she will hold that title: recent comments from Justice Stephen Breyer indicate that there could be another opening in the near future. 

Breyer made his remarks earlier this week during an interview with Slate magazine writer Dalilah Lithwick after she brought up the notion that Supreme Court justices should serve for a fixed period of years.

“I know you’ve talked a little bit about term limits for justices and being willing to entertain the idea, and I know you’ve also thrown out the number 18, but that’s not a magic number for you, it’s just a number you threw out,” Lithwick said.

Term limits?

“And I’m wondering if a little bit of what’s animating your willingness to at least consider it is it’s a way to break the gridlock,” she suggested. “It’s a way to depoliticize this.”

Or if it’s this notion that justices are just sitting around too long and they’re too old to do their jobs,” Lithwick continued, adding, “And I ask that with all due respect.”

“Well, I can’t answer this question because it is too close to something that is politically controversial,” Breyer said in response to his interviewer’s question regarding judicial term limits.

However, the 82-year-old San Francisco native did give some into sight into his own future, acknowledging that “eventually I’ll retire, sure I will. And it’s hard to know exactly when.”

It all comes down to Georgia

The type of justice that Breyer will ultimately be replaced by likely depends on political machinations that are currently playing out.

While former Vice President Joe Biden appears set to be inaugurated on January 20, voters in Georgia will go to the polls 15 days earlier for that state’s runoff Senate election.

Should Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock both win, control of the Senate would flip to Democrats, all but assuring that any Biden nominee would be confirmed.

However, if Republicans David Purdue and Kelly Loeffler prevail then it raises the possibility that a Biden nominee could face rejection.

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